Waiver and Release of Claims for Physical Injury During Fitness Training

The modern health or fitness club is a place where a person can attain physical health and fitness. It is also a place where a person can get hurt. for this reason, most, if not all, health clubs require patrons to assume the risk of physical injury associated with body building and aerobic conditioning. As we shall explain, here the waiver and release of liability operates as an effective written assumption of the risk which bars recovery. To achieve that result, the release must " 'be clear, unambiguous and explicit in expressing the intent of the parties.' " ( Id., at p. 755, quoting Madison v. Superior Court (1988) 203 Cal. App. 3d 589, 597-598 250 Cal. Rptr. 299). Waiver and release forms are to be strictly construed against the defendant. Such a form is simply a written assumption of a known risk, i.e., a risk reasonably anticipated by the plaintiff. ( Leon v. Family Fitness Center (# 107), Inc. (1998) 61 Cal. App. 4th 1227, 1234 71 Cal. Rptr. 2d 923). To be operative, the defendant's negligence which results in the plaintiff's injury must be reasonably related to the object or purpose for which the release is given. ( Id., at p. 1235; Paralift, Inc. v. Superior Court, supra, 23 Cal. App. 4th at p. 757; Madison v. Superior Court, supra, 203 Cal. App. 3d at p. 601). For example, in the health or fitness club context, the Leon court held that the plaintiff did not assume the risk that he would be injured by a collapsing sauna bench even though he: assumed the risk of injury while exercising ( id., at p. 1235) waived claims ". . . of any kind whatsoever . . . resulting from or related to Member's use of the facilities . . . ." ( Id., at p. 1231; cf. YMCA of Metropolitan Los Angeles v. Superior Court (1997) 55 Cal. App. 4th 22 63 Cal. Rptr. 2d 612). California courts have consistently held that, "although exculpatory clauses affecting the public interest are invalid citation, exculpatory agreements in the recreational sports context do not implicate the public interest." ( Allan v. Snow Summit, Inc. (1996) 51 Cal. App. 4th 1358, 1373 59 Cal. Rptr. 2d 813; see also Randas v. YMCA of Metropolitan Los Angeles (1993) 17 Cal. App. 4th 158, 161-162 21 Cal. Rptr. 2d 245).